Anti-radicalization office could open in Gatineau in 2018

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said the need for an office in the Outaouais region stems from the January shooting deaths of six people inside a Quebec City mosque.

Office needed 'before the violence strikes home,' says local imam

Imam Ahmed Limame kneels inside the Outaouais Islamic Centre on Sept. 1, 2017. The City of Gatineau has said it intends to open an anti-radicalization office in the city in 2018, after six people were shot and killed earlier this year at a Quebec City mosque. (CBC)

An anti-radicalization office is expected to open in the City of Gatineau in 2018.

Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said talk about the need for such an office in the Outaouais region began after six people were shot to death inside a Quebec City mosque in January.

Alexandre Bissonnette faces six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder while using a restricted firearm in the attack at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre.

"We're not reacting to a threat [in Gatineau]," Pedneaud-Jobin said. "We're trying to make sure that threats will not come to Gatineau.

Preparing 'for tough times'

"Things are going well. We haven't seen tensions as we've seen elsewhere. But nothing guarantees us that in five years, in 10 years, it's going to be the same," he added.

The anti-radicalization office — which will be run by the Montreal-based Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence — is expected to open sometime next year if its budget is approved by Gatineau's city council in December.

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said the office in Gatineau isn't being set up in response to any specific threat, but rather to prevent threats in the future. (CBC)

The centre was established two years ago and receives funding from the province and the City of Montreal.

"It's an expertise that we don't have," Pedneaud-Jobin said. "They do have it, and I think it's an advantage for us to right away — when things are well — prepare for tough times and to try to make sure that tough times never come."

Mosque supports initiative

Ahmed Limame, the imam of the Outaouais Islamic Centre, said he supports the idea of an anti-radicalization office.

Limame said the mosque received hate mail after the Quebec City attack, which he reported to police. 

He also noted the office could prevent radicalization both by those who want to target Islam, and those who want to commit violence in its name. 

"We need it to tackle hate crimes, religious crimes," Limame said.

"We need to take measures before the violence strikes home [and so] that we have the necessary expertise to tackle it when it happens."

Office unnecessary, says Quebec City mayor

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, for his part, has said an anti-radicalization office isn't necessary in his own city, arguing the RCMP and Quebec police forces already have the resources to address the problem.

"They know what to do and they know where they are going, and they have everything in their hands to do it," he said Thursday, a day after it was revealed the car of the mosque's president had also been torched.

No one has been arrested in that incident.

With files from Judy Trinh and Radio-Canada